Michael Rappaport

I'm going to give Joseph Andrew Stack the benefit of the doubt and assume that he wasn't a person who would ever have put a gun to someone's head and pulled the trigger.

That said, I don't want to write off what happened in Austin, Texas, the other day as only the act of someone whose mind had snapped. Stack still had enough of his mental faculties to drive to the airport, get into his plane and fly it to a specific destination.

So the truth has to lie somewhere other than total evil or complete insanity.

I'm not even certain it was a political act. His online manifesto contained attacks on politicians of all stripes, and he certainly wasn't a free-market capitalist.

"The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed."

His greatest anger, of course, was directed at the Internal Revenue Service. He apparently had a tax problem that cost him $40,000 and wiped out most of what he had saved for his retirement.

He felt desperate, speaking of "a storm raging in my head."

Folks on both sides will try to use this story for their own political ends. Those on the left will speak of growing right-wing anger and domestic terrorism, but I don't think they would be right. Folks on the right would argue that it's an example of people so burdened by taxes that they snap, but I don't think that's all that's left.

I think we have a society where the people running things -- both in government and in the private sector -- are so out of touch with average folks that they might as well be living in a different world. As wide as the gap has become between the middle class and the wealthy, we're on the verge of 21st century feudalism.

Sure, you get to own your own home -- if you're lucky.

Sure, you get to make some basic decisions about your life -- what kind of car to drive, where to order your take-out pizza.

But too many people live their lives in a constant state of anxiety, and too many of the things that make them anxious are beyond their control. Face it. You can own your own home and have $100,000 in the bank, but if you lose your job ... if you become seriously ill ... if all sorts of things happen, you can find yourself on the edge before you know it.

Add in the fact that there are loud voices on both sides -- authoritative voices -- stirring the anger stew for their own gain and life can be almost unbearable for a lot of people.

What good did it do anyone when those of us on the left argued for eight years that Dubya Bush had stolen the 2000 election? And what good does it do now when folks on the right continue their argument that Barack Obama wasn't born in this country.

All it does on both sides is turn irritation into anger, disagreement into hatred.

We live in a maelstrom of bad feelings, and most of us have done our part to make things worse. I know I myself am guilty of that and I regret it.

So I will say a prayer for the soul of Joseph Andrew Stack and hope that he has found peace in the arms of God.

Would that the rest of us could find more peace here on Earth.